Over the last few months, I have been thinking a lot about what this blog means to me and how it fits into my life, and I hadn’t realized how much Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism has changed my entire perception of my work and digital life. I started this blog when I first began freelancing almost eight years ago, chronicling my journey to building a life around writing. Now, I write every single day, tallying up words for novels, essays, and short stories while working on my craft within my career as a digital marketing professional. I have a great career where I help tell stories for universities.
So, I’ve been thinking, where does this blog fit into my life that I’m no longer a freelancer?
Honestly, my blog exhausted me (in a similar way to my podcast, The Working Poet Radio Show), because it began to seem like a burden rather than a passion. I know that sounds awful, especially to those people who have read or listened, but what I noticed is that the reason these projects were feeling like a burden was: 1. I was really busy at work, writing, and with my family, so something had to give. 2. I was focused on the wrong metrics — organic traffic, shares, page views — and not connecting with an audience.
As a digital marketing professional, I have learned to realize the value and the tools to increasing a digital presence, and I still see the value in this for any writing professional, but they consume me. I dedicate my day to helping our clients achieve these goals, and I thought, well, shouldn’t I be doing the same thing for my own blog? I pursued writing for this blog in the same way I approached my work: SEO optimized blog posts, listicles, social boosting. But it struck me this week: I don’t care about those things anymore for my own personal work. They are exhausting.
My thoughts have really started to change after reading Cal Newport’s “Digital Minimalism.” It’s a book that explores a lifestyle where you use digital technologies to support value, true value, rather than allowing the behavioral techniques that Silicon Valley — and digital marketing professionals like myself — employ so that a user keeps scrolling, keeps sharing, keeps you on your device. Newport’s book proved to be one of the most useful books I have ever read, and it helped me reorientate myself to what I care about: building a career and a community, writing books, and being there for my family.
Because of this book, I have written six chapters of a new novel and read 18 books in a month and a half, which I will catalogue at the end of this blog and flag the ones I recommend. During this time, I’ve come to a conclusion: I need to start writing without caring about being read. Well, maybe that’s not right. Clearly, I want to care about an audience. Maybe it’s more on the lines of: Be yourself and your audience will find you. That could be it. I don’t know. Realize what you value and focus on that…maybe. I don’t know.
- The Line Becomes a River, Francisco Cantu (Recommend. Reminded of Kerouac if he was working at the border)
- The Psychology of Time Travel, Kate Mascareenhas (Don’t recommend)
- Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport (One of the most useful books I’ve ever read)
- How Not to Die Alone, Richard Roper (Recommend)
- Ultralearning, Scott H. Young
- Churchgoers, Patrick Coleman (Alert, San Diego author)
- This is Not Propaganda, Pete Pomeranstev (Awesome read)
- Writing to Persuade, Trish Hall
- The Fault in Our Stars, John Green (Excellent, party time)
- The War of Kindness, Jamil Zaki (Pass)
- The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell
- The Whole Brain Child, Daniel Siegel (Awesome)
- Neuromancer, William Gibson
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
- The Sense of Style, Steven Pinker (Incredible style book)
- Paper Towns, John Green (Amazing!)
- The Disordered Mind, Eric R. Kandel
- Nine Stories, J.D. Salinger (Not as good as I remembered)